EXPOsed Conferences™ Podcast

Episode 04. Preparing for the Unexpected, Tips for Putting Together a Contingency Plan

May 14, 2019 Season 1 Episode 4
EXPOsed Conferences™ Podcast
Episode 04. Preparing for the Unexpected, Tips for Putting Together a Contingency Plan
Chapters
EXPOsed Conferences™ Podcast
Episode 04. Preparing for the Unexpected, Tips for Putting Together a Contingency Plan
May 14, 2019 Season 1 Episode 4
Beth Lawrence, Award Winning Event Producer and Experiential strategist
Last minute speaker cancellations, travel hiccups, food and beverage mishaps...even weather can cause delays or put a dent in the planning and execution of an event, prepare for the unexpected and hear from today's industry expert to keep in your back pocket to quickly resolve potential event disasters.
Show Notes Transcript

On Today’s Episode of EXPOsed Conferences™ Podcast I’m talking with Beth Lawrence, Award Winning Event Producer and Experiential strategist who helps companies create connective experiences in the form of corporate events, trade shows and meetings.  She is the co-founder of a local networking group The Industry Formula and the President of the Professional Women’s Roundtable.  Beth has made a name for herself in the hospitality industry, holding positions in sales, marketing, and event planning and was awarded Pennsylvania Meetings & Events Magazine’s 2018 Independent Meeting Planner of 2018.

"That's what a Plan B is really is about....whether you plan for it ahead of time or whether it happens onsite, being able to think on your feet is a huge aspect of being an event planner."  - Beth Lawrence


Click HERE to learn more about Beth Lawrence, Beth Lawrence LLC and follow her on Instagram @_beth_lawrence_llc for more great event tips!

On today's episode we will expose...

-Why every conference organizer should have a contingency plan
-Best practices for resolving issues quickly
-How to develop a system to rapidly deploy solutions
-Managing Client Expectations
-What contingencies can you put into place prior to the event in your contract to avoid unforeseen costs
-How to establish a chain of command to disseminate quick changes
-How selecting your team can influence the outcome
-What areas should conference organizers be thinking of when thinking about a backup plan? -The most important quality an event planner can have
- Speed Round! Explore some new suggestions for last minute speaker cancellations, travel hiccups, food and beverage mishaps and more!

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This episode has been a production by EXPOsed Conferences™ Podcast © February 2019 

Speaker 1:
0:01
Hey, welcome to expose comprehensives. I'm your host proceeding at Danielle. Thank you for tuning into the podcast where we're going to be exposing current trends, challenges and the features that [inaudible] as well. I'll be having candid conversations with industry experts will elevate your event and help you create partnerships that expand beyond the calendar year. I'm really happy to have you listening today and hope you benefit from today's episode as well as future episodes.
Speaker 1:
0:27
In today's episode, I'm talking with Beth Lawrence Award winning event producer and experiential strategist who helps companies create connected the experiences and the form of corporate events, trade shows and meetings. She is cofounder of a local networking group, the industry formula and the president of their professional women's round table that has made a name for herself in the hospitality industry holding positions in sales, marketing and event planning was recently awarded Pennsylvania's meeting and Events Magazine's 2018 independent planner of the year. On this episode, she'll be sharing her knowledge and expertise of planning of events and help you avoid potential event disasters by helping you prepare for the unexpected and putting together a plan B. But thank you so much for taking the time today to talk with me. It's such a pleasure to connect with you.
Speaker 2:
1:10
It's such a pleasure to be here. Thank you so much for having me. I really look forward to talking with you today.
Speaker 1:
1:15
Yeah, absolutely. So can you tell us a little bit about yourself, how you got into the industry and what you're currently working on?
Speaker 2:
1:22
Absolutely. So I think as with most people in the food and beverage hospitality industry, I got into the industry very young. My first job when I was 15 was in the hospitality industry actually as a server and working in a banquet hall. So from there I've held every position in restaurants, you know, from our attending to host the same to our management to sales manager. And when I was in college I majored in event planning. And actually at the time there was no event planning major at Arcadia and my Arcadia University, which is my, my university, my Alma Mater, my advisor actually said, we're looking to start this event planning degree and we would love to have you be sort of a model to help with the framework for this event planning degree. So I was able to individualize my major, which meant that I could petition to take any classes that I wanted as long as I could make the case that they would help me with my career later in life.
Speaker 2:
2:20
So I started actually planning events in college. I planned a fundraiser for my senior thesis, which benefited the gift of life program and raise $1,000 and a few hours using, you know, my network and resources and I just fell in love with it and I realized that I had actually been sort of planning my whole life. You know, I was one of those kids that when we were doing one thing, I would ask what we were doing next or if it was Saturday at us, what we were doing next Saturday. So it just sort of came naturally to me. And in terms of my career, I graduated in 2009 which was a really tough year to graduate with an event planning degree as you can imagine. So I took part time jobs, volunteer opportunities, planning events, and eventually landed a job at Dave and busters. And I was in event sales for them, which was interesting because I never considered myself a salesperson.
Speaker 2:
3:10
But with the networking and relationship building, I fell in love with it. From there I went on to hold catering sales and event sales and marketing positions at large catering companies like relay catering here in Philadelphia as well as the palm restaurant. And I also was a regional marketing director for a startup out of Austin, Texas called snap kitchen. And it was a healthy food startup. And with them I did over 250 events in two years, um, small and large. And after I was laid off due to restructuring, I started my own business. So since then I've planned large events and small events and worked on marketing campaigns for tech industry executives as well as cannabis industry executives. I've done events in the blockchain industry and I've also worked with small hospitality businesses on consulting for, for marketing. So it's been a very interesting journey and I'm really happy to be where I am.
Speaker 1:
4:11
Yeah, that's an incredible resume. A lot of extensive history in different assets of the events space. What do you find to be things that you've learned along the way, especially in regards to this topic today that we're talking about coming up with a plan B and why you need to have one and what challenges have you seen from just your experience?
Speaker 2:
4:31
My goodness, I feel like anyone who's planned an event and had something go wrong or something out of their control happen, knows the importance of a plan B, you know, everything from mistakes that I had made in the beginning of my career too. Unpredictable things have happened during events. So one of the earliest memories that I have of having a plan B was I worked at this beautiful large catering is actually a museum, but it was a catering facility as well. And obviously with venues like that, there's no storage, so you have to rent everything and outsource everything, which means that you have to be very careful when you're looking at floor plans and rentals and making sure that you cross reference everything. You know, if you need 400 forks then you get 398 it's a really big issue. If you have 400 seats then you need to be filled.
Speaker 2:
5:23
So we were doing this event and it was a very high end client. They had upgraded a lot of things and they actually got square tables and I had been used to 72 inch round tables. I knew the exact measurements that I needed for the linens for those tables. And I don't know what happened during this event, but for some reason with the 72 inch square tables, I ordered 72 inch square linens, which everything look like a picnic table. There was no that wasn't touching the floor and this is a very, very high end caterer. So it took myself and my team, we scrambled, thankfully the catering company at other venues and we got different linens from other venues and actually made it work somehow. Obviously it was a big conversation with the client. The client was very respectful and very understanding, which is way more than I could have asked for.
Speaker 2:
6:16
But it was a huge lesson learned and I actually, you know, it was funny because obviously as an event planner you double check, you triple check yourself. But the reality of the situation was that I, I should have asked for help in that instance, but it showed me the importance of a plan B and not just kind of panicking, but being able to say, okay, well it doesn't matter whose fault it was. It doesn't matter why this happened. It just matters that we need to get this taken care of. And most recently I've been a part of a lot of inaugural events, so first time events for different clients and companies and it's very unpredictable. You have no framework for the event, you don't know if there was predictable costs at the end, you don't know how you're going to work with the venues, et Cetera, et cetera.
Speaker 2:
6:58
And this client, we, they decided not to have a an end date to ticket sales. So we, so many people register on site that the food that we had ordered just wasn't enough. And to make matters kind of worse was we had, it was in multiple buildings over a large campus, so we had food in five different places and one place it was running out the other place it was kind of full and it was just to be there at that time. It's obviously an event planners nightmare to see no food and align with people. So we were able to have a plan B. There were actually food vendors on site. So we were able to work with our partners and say, you know, if anybody didn't get a snack in this area because it's only a 15 minute break, can we just take snacks from these different vendors? And it again, it was sort of a scramble and it was a lesson learned, but you just kind of make it happen. And that's really what a plan B is about is whether you plan for it ahead of time or whether it happens on site. It just being able to think on your feet I think is a really huge aspect of being a successful event planner.
Speaker 1:
8:07
Yeah, and you bring up two really great points. You know, it's a funny thing and the industry is, it's like no matter how much you plan, there is typically an area that ends up taking on a new life, um, either during the planning process or it's completely ditch on site and you have to take another route. You know, that, that plan B. But two things that you mentioned that I find I'm in the planning process for a lot of the events that is just staying calm and you're not placing blame on anybody or anything. It just how can you resolve the issue as quickly as you can and using your team and using other resources make up for problem areas that arise on site. Right. Thinking on your feet like you just,
Speaker 2:
8:47
absolutely, and I think the team mentality is also very important because you know as an event planner, you can't operate in a silo and every single person in, in my opinion, every single person in an event is a partner. Whether it's someone that you're contracting a vendor for ab or for food or what have you. Everyone should be in the mindset of how can we make this work? Not, you know, this is your problem, this is your issue. You need to figure it out. Obviously sometimes you need to handle other things onsite and you do need to leave it to the experts to figure it out. But the bottom line is if an attendee notices something going wrong with any facet of your event, all partners are to blame. So it really helps to have the mentality of we'll debrief later if it's something that we need to talk about for next time. But at this point we just have to get things moving so that the events days on a good track.
Speaker 1:
9:42
Exactly. And so prior to the then as you're planning and preparing to go on site, and even from the earliest stages when you're just coming up with what the event is going to be and who your team is and the vendors that you're working with, are you developing your plan B and how are you putting that into place?
Speaker 2:
10:00
Absolutely. I always develop a plan B. I even have honestly backup venues in mind, backup vendors. Recently I actually verbally contracted with a vendor for an event design that I was hired to do and a actually wound up not getting back to me after I presented their ideas of the client. We were, you know, verbally in, but we just had to have one more conversation and signed the contract. So thankfully I had other vendors in my back pocket because the event is three weeks away and if I didn't and it would took that long to establish a new relationship to make sure that I've found the right person that could handle it, it really would be detrimental. And you know, even I think the first thing that we think of when we think of Plan B is obviously weather plans, but there's even things where situations where a speaker won't be able to get into either the country or the airport and you're having implying to whether that's because of weather or because of other issues that arise.
Speaker 2:
11:02
So having a backup plan as far as I have to fly in to Newark instead of JFK, how are you going to get them to where they need to go if they can't fly in at all? What plans do you have for digital interviews or Collins or, or something like that? I think I, I obviously don't let it consume too much of my time because I think then you can kind of go into a spiral because at the end of the day there's a classic saying that events are 90% last minute changes and I do find that, you know, with my experience in the industry, but I think you do have to think of, okay, if x doesn't go the way that I've planned it, what then is the backup plan and who is aware of the backup plan and it really goes into also emergency planning as well. It's amazing to me how many people don't consider emergency exit routes and communications plans and things like that. Obviously something, especially in this day and age that we need to be considering everything that we do.
Speaker 1:
11:58
Exactly. And writing those things out so that way you can communicate that with your team, developing your contingency plan throughout the process. And so I think that's a great
Speaker 2:
12:09
right. And at the end of the day we all sort of have plan B's in our mind if we planned events before, even if you don't have it or a plan c or plan d I should say, even if you don't have all of these backup plans right now. I think being able to think on your feet as we talked about as part of being an event planner. So I think that is also key is having a team who understands the importance of that.
Speaker 1:
12:32
So what would you say are some of the biggest areas you would recommend to other planners when they're coming up with their plan d?
Speaker 2:
12:39
I think travel planning is huge because you really never know what can happen, especially with rotation as it is these days and delays and things like that. I think that food and beverage can really be something that you need to have a plan, not a plan B for, but at least plan for. You know, inevitably there's going to be someone on site that says I'm allergic to x, Y, and Z, or I can't have this because of these reasons and you need to be prepared for that. Even if you ask people to tell you ahead of time, what I find is that you can sort of lead people to water, but you can't make them drink. You can, you know, plan your event to the t, but it doesn't mean they're going to do exactly what you expect them to do or provide all the information that you need.
Speaker 2:
13:23
I think even spacial things you have to think about, you know, whether it's, if you haven't an event outside where you're going to move it inside, or even if you're having an event in doors and say the power goes out or events, the events base that you've rented for some reason is, is flooded or something like that. You have to have a plan for how to get people where they need to go. And really that was one of the things that led us to, to start, um, the industry formula, which started as party partners of Philadelphia five actually six years ago now, there were seven venues in Philly and we decided to get together and say, okay, I worked at the palm at the time and I had three events, spaces for all intents and purposes that I could book for people. So if someone called for say, April 18th today and needed a space and I had all my spaces booked, rather than saying, you know, I'm so sorry I can't help you.
Speaker 2:
14:21
Hopefully next time we'll be able to do something for you. We developed a system where we could recommend, you know, partners in the industry that I know would take care of my clients as well as I would, and it was hugely successful. We actually had a flood in Philadelphia and our venues were able to work together in a matter of hours to move of an event from one venue to another with almost the exact same menu inclusions, the exact same pricing. And again, knowing that there's that same level of service. So I think really contingency planning is something that I've always been thinking about because it's actually something I do in my real life anyway. Yeah, that's amazing
Speaker 1:
15:02
how that network of people that you can reach out to if there is something that you need assistance with and who are willing to step up. And so that's incredible.
Speaker 2:
15:12
It brought a service to clients that we didn't expect them. It almost took on a life of its own as an event planner. Even just finding a space for a small dinner at a restaurant can take all day to, if you don't know the right resources are placed to look. So having that network made it so much easier for people if, if they had a last minute event or if they frankly didn't feel like calling around to 10 different restaurants, they could contact us directly. And they still can and have access to all of these partners that could provide the same level of service.
Speaker 1:
15:45
Yeah, absolutely. That's great and so um, when you're talking about some of the items of when you're on site and there is an issue that occurs such as you mentioned the power going out or having food and beverage running low, how are you establishing your chain of command before you go to the event and who are those people on your team who you're actually putting in charge to establish those changes, whether it be before the event or on site?
Speaker 2:
16:12
I think it's important to clue everyone in and I always like to have a meeting with my vendors even if it's a 10 minute meeting before the event starts. I think giving sort of an overview, obviously not the whole thing, but giving an overview of, okay, here's the areas where I think we could run into issues. Are we all in agreement that this is the backup plan? I think that's really important. Obviously having someone on my team doesn't need it as the point person and kind of understanding the contingency plan as well as I do and being able to communicate it to the people at the registration desk, the people that are stationed for way finding. I think that's always really important and really ever, like I said, everyone in the event in my mind should be clued in because if you don't have a cohesive plan, especially if you're planning an event that's the asked in the area that it occupies, it can be very, very difficult to put a plan into action if everyone isn't on the same page or if you know your contingency plan as an event planner isn't the same as say the building regulations.
Speaker 2:
17:15
I think it can be really detrimental if not everyone is clued in. One example is, so when I worked at the palm restaurant, we were in a building in Philadelphia called the Bellevue. It's absolutely gorgeous, very historic building. And at the time there were a number of political offices in the building upstairs and we had a protest come into our building and it was actually a citizen. So they sat in the lobby right in front of our doors and I had one of my biggest event clients of the year coming in and they've virtually couldn't get through the doors, those doors in the, because if they were occupied and blocked off. So we had to work with every single person in the building, you know, security and hotel because of the hotel in the building and figure out how to get them into the space without them encountering this sort of roadblock. And it was great that I already had established contacts, really good relationships with those contacts in order to, to help me make it happen. And it really was a team effort. Obviously that's a small example, but that, that's where I'm saying that it helps not only to communicate with people internally on your team, but to have those point people to go to if you need to.
Speaker 1:
18:26
I mean, you've brought up some really great examples. I don't think neither scenario is necessarily desirable, but one is obviously dramatically can be considered worse than the other, right? Yeah. You might have a long line at a food and beverage line, but having a fit in during one of the high end clients coming into your events space, obviously one is a little bit more chaotic than the other, so narrowing in on what the high risk of those areas are and what could potentially happen and working your way through those issues, but obviously on different levels of how you're going to work through them.
Speaker 2:
19:01
Right. I think it comes down to who is affected and to what level they are affected by these, by these changes or unexpected occurrences. There's a difference between, like you said, running out of food and snack time when when there's a lunch, an hour and a half away or power going out and not being able to have the event go on at all. Or when it comes to attendees safety, that's obviously a huge aspect of it and that would be obviously the most detrimental. But I think that it all comes down to putting yourself in your attendees shoes and really thinking, if I were an attendee at this event and x went wrong, how would I want them to handle it? Because I've seen a lot of people as an attendee to events handle unforeseen circumstances and really not the most desirable way, whether it's blaming a partner or not answering social media inquiries as to what's going on. You know, it kind of runs the gamut. So I think it's, for me it's about putting, again, putting myself in the attendees shoes and seeing what would I like to see happen if this happened to me?
Speaker 1:
20:09
Right. Being able to rapidly deploy, you know, that plan be to minimize the disruption in the stress that's causing either your team or, or especially the attendees. Yeah, that's a great point. So how are you, you know, managing the expectations as your client and vendors? When these last minute changes occur?
Speaker 2:
20:29
I usually just kind of take the reins if something happens because I think that really separates a leader from just someone who can plan events. It's, you know, obviously working together and figuring out on the spot a way to rectify the situation or it better is great. But I think there's always, I think people always look to you as the planner for what's next, what are we supposed to do here? And sometimes even, I think we're all guilty of figuring out, kind of saying, okay, this is, this is what we agreed to. You know, we might need to discuss x, y, and Z. For example, with the food situation. I've had to run out before at an event, like I said, and the person said, well, you know, you ordered this much and this many p and I and I sort of calmly said, I understand that we can have those conversations afterwards, but right now we just need to kind of make it happen.
Speaker 2:
21:24
And we did wind up having the conversations at a later time. But also knowing when knowing when it's time to act rather than talk I think is really super important because I think you can get bogged down in scenarios of well maybe we could do this and maybe we could do that. I think it takes someone saying, this is exactly, this is what we're doing, movies, people here, take this from there. You know, get the AB person in that room and make sure that it's ready for the next break out, whatever it is. You know, in that instance walkies our walkies and cell phones are your biggest, best friends onsite at events. Because just being able to speak candidly and also quickly to your team is of the utmost importance.
Speaker 1:
22:06
And I agree. I think exploring ideas with your vendors when Jay kind of, uh, your vendors or your venues would, you kind of alluded to is something that you can do to work with them as so, you know, yeah. It's having those conversations offline at a later time. You had mentioned the fit end, you had talked to people on site, you know, what are some different ways that you can get people into that without necessarily causing a disruption from whatever was going on outside of your event? So I think sometimes just a matter of exploring an idea or a conversation where maybe the vendor hasn't been asked yet.
Speaker 2:
22:41
Absolutely. Yeah. Like I think sometimes people are just kind of taken aback by questions or suggestions and then you just kind of have to make it work. Yeah. Communication, right.
Speaker 1:
22:51
I'm in this industry of the communicate with your vendors and your team and you, the vendors are an extension of your team, so, right. Making sure everybody's on the same. Yeah.
Speaker 2:
23:00
And also I think managing expectations with the client beforehand is part of contingency planning. Right? So if a client says, well, we have 500 people registered, but I want to get food for three 50 managing those expectations as much as you can ahead of time and saying, look, for my experience, it's not a great idea. You know, they only, you know, crap for 5% more than the guarantee that we give them. You know, they're not available to make more food onsite if needed. You know, that was another thing that I would always run into with the caterer that I worked for was we weren't a restaurant, so we didn't have refrigerators stocked full of food all the time. We really ordered and prepped for each event. It was it from scratch, high end catering company. So that was something where I had to manage expectations and say, if you want to place an order for this amount of food, that's fine.
Speaker 2:
23:50
But we only prep for, I think it was 10% or 15% over your guarantee. So please note that if you run out, this is a situation where we will not be able to replenish for you, especially if it's something that is a, a really high end item or something that's hard to get. I think a lot of people don't understand those nuances. And I think that also separates me from other planners because I've had the experience as a vendor, as a supplier, I can sort of again put myself in the shoes of, of the supplier and the vendor and say, you know, the reason that they're, they're telling us that we need to have the guarantee of at least this much is for this reason. So I think that helps too, to manage expectations on your clients. And if they have a question about budget, for example, again for food,
Speaker 1:
24:36
can you just take me back to another question that I am? So this kind of goes back to the initial stages of the planning process, writing out your plan and maybe in the negotiation of the contracts. So planning out your budget and figuring out what some of those areas that you might run into closer to your event or on site and how, how are you ensuring that something like that it doesn't get overlooked or what contingencies or you're putting into place so that if there is an issue that you're able to resolve it in a quick way?
Speaker 2:
25:08
Well, I'm always a huge fan. I used to kind of get teased about this at one of my jobs that I keep every single email. I keep a file every single email. And if we have a conversation, I, you know, reiterate it, the email, I always like to have things in writing. I always also like to have, for example, if it's a price quote, I like to have multiple quotes from multiple scenarios because inevitably you can plan for a, B, two B x amount. But if you add another breakout room, if you add more Wifi, if you had more laptops in, in your rooms or whatever it is, there could be unforeseen costs. So I always like to talk about those unforeseen cross ahead of time because the worst thing for an event planner is to get stuck with a bill that you didn't know what was happening.
Speaker 2:
25:54
And believe me, most vendors try to be very clear in their communication, but we're not all experts in all of all aspects of an event. I'm not an expert in a the I'm an expert in what a v we need to make the event happen, but there may be unforeseen costs in terms of things that I'm not aware of adding additional power or those things. So I always like to have those conversations and then outline would be email because then it's really easy to go back and say, remember when we had this conversation and you said x, Y andZ , I'd like to execute that. And then you have the planning and the price outlined for you already as opposed to horrible moment when you're waiting for another proposal and not knowing if it's going to be 10,000 or 20,000 or $50,000 more.
Speaker 1:
26:40
Right, exactly. And sometimes if we're looking things that we sometimes take for granted too, you know, we go to all tell or we go to a venue and typically the sleeping rooms or complimentary wifi and then somebody who's new to that, to the industry or may not know that in the meeting space most likely will have to pay for that.
Speaker 2:
26:58
Yeah. And that, that's happened to me before. Even as someone who came in sort of at the end stage of an event just to help get the event to its final stage. It's happened to me where I've, you know, been asked to stay at the hotel and that we were reserving as our host hotel and not, none of the expectations that he had were managed in terms of even the bandwidth of the Wifi is can be really tough if you have executives, high powered executives who traveled globally and who are used to working out of hotels and you don't have adequate Wifi. It doesn't matter if it's free, you know, it has to work. So you also have to have those experiences and conversations of okay, your Wifi is free. Great, but what happens if it's not working? Because that's really, that's something that I saw at an event once.
Speaker 2:
27:50
It was a brilliant presentation by an Ab company and they talked about the costs of Avion and wireless and those kinds of things in meetings and it, they use the example of Starbucks. If you're at Starbucks and your Wifi doesn't work, it's free Wifi, what are you going to do? You know you're going to find somewhere else to go or you're going to use your phone's hotspot or what have you, but you got paid for that Wifi. You would expect someone to be there when you need to call them and say, look, this isn't working. You would expect a resolution. So I think that's something you'd have to manage as well. And again, trying to put yourself in the attendees shoes always saying at the host hotel I think is really important because you want to make sure that your VIP is your stakeholders, your speakers, your sponsors are having a great experience not only at your event on site, but the entire experience because no one wants to go back to a hotel at the end of the day and have a frustrating experience.
Speaker 1:
28:41
Oh yeah, absolutely. And all super important to communicating that though. How are you communicating all these, you know, your plan. If you're on site and something goes awry and you have your chain of command in place, you know who you're going to go to implement those changes, but how are you sharing that with the attendees? Are you sharing it with them and how does that get escalated through the chain of command? So
Speaker 2:
29:04
I think there's always sort of a system you have to use when sharing with attendees. If it's somebody that's going to affect their experience to where they need to alter the way that they're going to their next breakout session. For example of a room that was available now isn't working or something like that, then you have to communicate to the attendees. If it's something like that they wouldn't really notice and you can kind of get solved without notifying everyone. I always think that's sort of the best way to go about it. Especially, you know, you don't want to alarm people or sort of point out a pain point in the event if you don't need to. I think event technology is really huge, but this, I've been part of events where we've used event bots and event apps and things like that that have push notifications on them.
Speaker 2:
29:51
So that's always uh, an one way to communicate with the attendees and social media can be another way to communicate with the attendees. A lot of people use Twitter in, you know, emergency situations like that. Again, that's something where it fits in. My mind would only go to social media. If it's something that needs to be a huge announcement where you know people will be checking the feed such as an emergency situation, then you want to have someone delegated to be that person, that point person, that voice for the attendees because push notifications, we all know it can be disabled. So with event apps as great as they are, I think event bots really take it to the next level because a lot of them can send a text message directly to the attendees phones as well. And that's really huge because everyone goes to their phone if they can't find a physical person to answer the question.
Speaker 2:
30:41
And we've seen where, you know, if you don't have that communication plan in place, if it's affecting the attendees, it can go viral on social media for a reason that you do not want it to go viral. Obviously the FYRE festival is a huge example of this. I was fascinated as a spectator and as an events professional, watching bold on Twitter in real time. I remember watching it and you know, I was sort of glued to the documentaries. I think I've seen each at least two to three times because you, you just can't imagine, I just can't imagine I should say the level of stress that they felt, but also when you see that they weren't responding to people and all those things, it's just a nightmare at one nightmare after the other in terms of attendees communications and managing expectations and then not being a resource for, for your attendees when the worst happens. And I just couldn't even imagine that. But
Speaker 1:
31:34
I know, I think that those were my words exactly too. I think I just was in awe and in shock of just how, you know, there was no plan B, there was no plan B or a c or d. I mean there was just no alternative. And just the timing of it too, it was just so rushed and pour planned and just in fortunate. But I watched it myself a few times and I just think any, every 11 players should watch it because it's just amazing. You know, how they kept pushing for it to continue when they should have called it off. You know, a long time before.
Speaker 2:
32:03
I honestly think that we've all dealt with clients like that to some degree, obviously not spectacularly, but uh, hopefully, but you know, I've dealt with clients that are just have to make it happen attitude. And obviously as event planners, that's really what we want to do. But there are some things that are just impossible to make happen. And so I think again, having that plan in your head, I always hate going to a client and saying, we can't make that happen without having a suggestion as what we can make happen. So that's part of contingency planning too, is if you have to manage client expectations and say, you know, we can't fit 200 people in this room in rounds, but you know, we can do is fit 200 people in this room theater style classrooms that whatever it is. I think even that is part of contingency planning and managing expectations is having those ideas in your back pocket of what you can do as opposed to just saying what you can't do.
Speaker 1:
32:55
Yeah, I think that's a great point. And so while we're on the conversation of managing expectations and what people can do in place of certain events, something changes. If it's okay, I'd like to just run through a few potential scenario and have kind of like a, almost like a rapid fire session where you can give listeners a suggestion, a tip on some of these items, if that's okay.
Speaker 2:
33:17
Sure, this'll be interesting, et cetera.
Speaker 1:
33:20
And some of these are things that you've talked about it, but I think it'd be great to just give people just some ideas on what they should be on the outlooks for are things they can take away so that as they're planning their event here is something that you might run into. It doesn't necessarily mean you will, but here are some suggestions for dealing with that. Definitely. Awesome. So venues, Lino, what should it planners be on the lookout when they're booking a venue and what are some things that they can run to?
Speaker 2:
33:48
So I think that booking a venue is important. Uh, obviously when you think about your guest count, I think it's important because especially with a first time event, you can say that you want 200 people to come and you could get 800 or you could get 50 so you kind of have to figure out with your venue, is there room to grow? Is there room to shrink? If you need to wear without it looking like a huge room with not many people. I think having a backup plan in terms of what if a venue shuts down, what if it gets double booked? Having a backup space I think is important and also really, really, really reading your contracts is important with venues because a lot of venues, they won't tell you x, Y, Z isn't included and you'll think that you're getting everything included with the price point, but you really have to read your contracts and say, okay, it doesn't include rentals. This does include rentals. It doesn't include staff, it does include staff. So those are the things that I would look for initially. When you're talking about a venue,
Speaker 1:
34:49
how about speakers? So you mentioned earlier cancellations with speakers or at times I know that there's are sometimes even date of cancellation and filling those spots. What is the best way or how can you prepare for that? Um, prior to the event or even onsite kind of filling in those
Speaker 2:
35:04
nice, well again, sometimes I think having a digital option for someone to dial in and have and do their keynote or what have you virtually I think is always a good option because if you're stuck at the airport, there could always at least be a lounge or somewhere where you can go to, to do your presentation. But having speakers that are really multifaceted is important as well. One of the biggest events I did, we had over 200 speakers. So it was a good thing because obviously we had a wealth of knowledge and many, many talented individuals, but it was also a bad thing because keeping track of everyone's travel schedules can be really, really difficult. And there were some cancellations day of and we were able to actually move the schedule around in real time and again, using event apps using those event bots. And things like that.
Speaker 2:
35:54
We're able to communicate effectively to attendees beforehand so that they knew that if they were coming to see a certain speaker, you know it was going to be a different speaker talking about the same or similar topic. I think that's important to make sure that they have that you have speakers that can speak to multiple things as opposed to just sort of a one track speaker that that always is important to me at least with large events especially because filling gaps in time, you know, if there's 12 breakout sessions it's easy to fill out, fill a gap in time, but if there's one room that you're in all day and one of the key speakers cancels, having a backup plan, having another speaker you can ask. Even having someone who lives locally that you could call and say, hey, we have a cancellation. Do you know anyone that could fill in? I think that's really important as well.
Speaker 1:
36:42
I I think pulling a another speaker from another session, it's a great idea. And then even I've seen, you know, asking attendee to participate in some sort of small discussion group and another option as well.
Speaker 2:
36:53
Absolutely. And I think also making a panel discussion of fireside chat is also an option. You know, if you have a moderator and two panelists and all of a sudden you have a moderator and panelists will then it's more of a fireside chat, right? So it's just changing the formatting a little bit.
Speaker 1:
37:08
How about registration? So recently I was edited event I think two weeks ago and our entire registration system shut down. All the computers failed that, that is weren't printing. We ran under the badge shock. It was a complete disaster, but we figured it out. We actually ended up having somebody fly in on a plane, um, from, from Chicago to Nashville to wearing us badge dot. But things like that do happen. And so does any tips or suggestions that planners and take away or something like that were to happen on site? Oh Man.
Speaker 2:
37:46
Well stay calm and see strolling in because registration is someone's first impression of the event. And I actually exactly that happened day one again, a huge conference and convention that we were doing and thousands of attendees we're checking in. Thankfully we had pre printed a lot of the badges for speakers, media people, media personalities, excuse me, you know, um, reporters and things like that and also sponsors. So that was really important to us to make sure that that was a seamless process for the key people who needed to come in and get their badge, put their things down and really get to where they're needed to go. But for attendees, I think having, having backups of an attendee lists is super important. You know, if you're using a registration system and that crashes and you don't have access the to the attendee list, they're having access to an event, bright maybe attendee list or even honestly a CSV for me or an excel spreadsheet is always really important.
Speaker 2:
38:46
And having ways to take payment on site that doesn't include the registration system I think is also important. So whether you use square or whether you have a paypal account or something like that, having a way to take payment is also really important because you can avoid those bottlenecks. And as far as getting the actual badge as you know, that can be, that can be really, really stressful and I would do exactly what you did. Either get someone to bring it in or send one of your team members to staples or something like that and you know, rob as much as you possibly can and we'll make it work. Um, I always also have one of a stack of those like, hello, my name is.
Speaker 1:
39:24
Yeah, I mean, exactly. That's what we were working through on site. We're like, do we give everybody a hello, my name is bad. You know, it was really special paper that we had to use for our printers, so we did have to fly it in. But exactly. Just kind of thinking on your feet and coming up with some solutions while you're waiting for, um, the computer has to either come up and, and get started again or resolution,
Speaker 2:
39:47
right. And Rock and hopefully having someone does, he need to do sort of the backend work of calling them in troubleshooting while the other folks handle the face to face interactions I think is really important to you because if you only have one or two people registration and one of those people is handling a call, it can be way more chaotic than having two to three people be able to explain what's going on and give a solution. But Erika is, she's having, yeah,
Speaker 1:
40:11
run into whether and how did you kind of move through?
Speaker 2:
40:15
Well, thankfully I really haven't had a ton of events that have had to cancel while they were going on during due to weather. I have had a lot of events cancelled because of snow, because of the fear of snow. I live in Philadelphia and obviously here we're kind of used to the snow situation, but if a blizzard is coming, you know and you're flying people in from out of town, that's something you have to be considerate of. I always have a backup in terms of at least a week beforehand. I try to start having those conversations. Or if it's something like a hurricane where you know it's going to be detrimental as soon as possible. I would say start to communicate with your vendors and your venue and say, okay, what, what room is there for Movement for this event? Like did you, do we plan a backup date or are we going to have to worst case scenario, worst case scenario, refund everybody and figure it out later because you don't want to do that obviously is a planner.
Speaker 2:
41:14
You don't want to have to have this situation where the event's cancelled all together. I have had where a venue has closed due to weather and we didn't have another place to go, but again, having resources within the community and saying, Hey, do you guys have any space for 50 people tonight are among our cancelled. It makes you look like the hero. So having the conversations early again in from the very beginning of planning, if it's something where you're planning an event outside, there should absolutely be a rain plan or whether plan and also just yeah, being able to think on your feet and call on your resources.
Speaker 1:
41:53
Yeah. I another great tip to recently that was planning for weather in advanced by selling a sponsorship. Right? So maybe having somebody be a sponsor upon Joe's or something.
Speaker 2:
42:04
I honestly it was funny, funny you say that because we were even, that can be part of your swag if you think about it, you know, how much of a hero would you look like if it started pouring and your attendees had to be outside for some reason and you have ponchos or you've had sponsored umbrellas. I actually in the market for an umbrella company that would make me a custom umbrella with my logo and it says always have a rain plan. I've wanted that. That's a good idea. I that I couldn't find any companies that did it. So if you know on you, please let me know. I might have some
Speaker 1:
42:36
and we can talk, we can talk offline method. I love that though and I do think I actually might have something
Speaker 2:
42:41
for you obviously, especially if it's a big event and you know it has to be outside. You don't want to think about the worst case scenario, but if you have a thousand people looking at you for what to do next, you have to have an answer.
Speaker 1:
42:57
Yeah. And you want to be able to give them something that they can take away and they don't necessarily see it as, oh this is the plan B, but it's something they can take away with them after the event. Right, exactly. How about exceeding capacity at a venue? So you've sold out your show, which is the great, you're in a situation where there's going to be more people in in the venue space or in the meeting rooms. What advice can you give give our planners as far as meeting the expectations of the attendees and kind of accommodating them where registration is kind of above where, where you thought it was going to be?
Speaker 2:
43:36
Well I think having a standing room only option is important. You know, if you're going to oversell tickets, it kind of having that discussion or that different ticket level. Almost like a baseball game where you have standing room only and it's like, you know, you know, you have a feet, you want to come and watch it. I think that would be a good option. Another thing that I've seen, um, venues able to do, which I thought was really helpful was pipe in audio and also, um, the visuals from one room to another so that people, if they are, even if they're in another space and they can't necessarily see the speakers speaking, they were able to pipe in audio and the visuals so that you were still having the same experience just may not be in the same room. So that's always, that's something that since I saw that, it's something that I consider with all of my events because you never know what's gonna happen with, with people in their seating and, and all of those kinds of things, especially if tickets aren't managed properly.
Speaker 1:
44:37
Oh yeah. Overflow areas are great. And again, another sponsorship.
Speaker 2:
44:41
Yes, exactly. I think creating other sponsorship around it. Yes.
Speaker 1:
44:45
Okay. So last one, cause I know we're short on time, but onto our ships. So your sponsors material does not arrive. Maybe they have something for the red bag or they're supposed to be giving something away onsite at the event and it doesn't, yeah,
Speaker 2:
44:58
show up. Oh, that has happened actually before the entire booth set up. Didn't show up for one of the sponsors leave. What we did was give them their own breakout space where they could sort of have a branded, we worked with whatever was on site, I think it was the white board or something like that. I forget what it actually was, but we worked with them to have their own space. Obviously in those scenarios you need to consider refunds or partial refunds for your sponsors, even though even if it's not your fault, just to keep those relationships going. And we also were able to upgrade their, their inclusion. So I think we gave them presence at another offsite event that we weren't going to give them presence for. We were able to upgrade them to the men, the sponsorship level where they got the attendee list when they weren't before.
Speaker 2:
45:45
So I think there's always ways that you can work it out. When you think about what your sponsors goals are beyond the booth, right? What are their, what are their goals for the event? How can you drive people there? You can even, we send push notifications to all of the attendees saying visit the sponsor in this space for an exclusive, they had a couple of their products on sites. They were able to do product demos, so that was kind of a way that we were able to save it. They were actually a local company, so they were able to go back to their office and get a few things as well. But I think trying to see which ways you could upgrade their sponsorship as kind of a collateral, so to speak for their experience, I think is always a good way to go.
Speaker 1:
46:25
I like those tabs. You know, social media provides the most affordable and it's, you know, it's free. Social media is probably the most effective advertising and promotion that you can do for
Speaker 2:
46:35
force ones are. Right, exactly. And I think that's really important too. And having sponsored posts or even you know, allowing them an additional recruitment session for example, if that's part of your event I think is is important as well.
Speaker 1:
46:48
Awesome. That does has been amazing. And thank you so much for taking part in that little rapid fire.
Speaker 2:
46:53
Who Your mom? No I loved it. I actually, I always envision, I wish that there was like an event planner competition show the way that there is for interior designers and fashion designers. I think it would be really interesting to kind of put different event planners to the test. So I think you should keep going with this game. I love it.
Speaker 1:
47:08
You know, I so thankful to have you on today. I think there's been a lot of great tips and ideas that have been truly insightful and you think we can agree that when it's all said and done, complications are bound to happen by creating a contingency plan, properly communicating an alternative plan with your team. You know, establishing the chain of command on booze, leading and implementing those changes and communicating those efforts. And like you have said throughout the course of this, but being able to really just think on your feet for new ideas.
Speaker 2:
47:41
Yeah, I think that that's really the number one thing that I look for when I'm starting to look at new team members in new partners for events is how well they can think on their feet. Because it's almost like when people talk about, don't panic if you're drowning because that'll make you drunk faster. It same thing in events like you can't, if you start to panic, then no solutions will come to you. You have to really look at it logically, look at the whole picture and say, okay, what can we move around? What can we do to make this work? Awesome. Well, thank you so much. Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me.
Speaker 1:
48:10
Thank you for listening to expose tune in every Tuesday to hear a new episode and join in on the conversation exposed conferences, podcasts that@sprout.com.
Speaker 3:
48:26
Okay. [inaudible].